— Glenn Beck - The Washington Post - Why we are all Catholics now
I’d shit myself and then kill myself if I believed this pronouncement to be true. I doubt female genital cutting would last long under police surveillance, no matter whether it was couched liturgically. And neither do denials of women’s rights and/or workers’ rights deserve constitutional protections under the auspice of religious freedom.
Thought experiment: should secularism, let alone atheism, be understood as “religious” or as worthy of equivalent protections? I think atheism and its cousin agnosticism are closer to “religious” in the sense of being formal identities subject to protections against discrimination. After all, you always hear about somebody or other somewhere declaring victory because they have had a menorah or nativity scene removed from a campground or town square. Plus which we have the “New” Atheism to thank for reintroducing elitism into a discourse that never rid itself of the accusation of elitism. These victories can satisfy a sardonic side of me, and little else.
No, I’d much rather see a struggle for a new secularism in the United States. Rather than countering identity politics with identity politics, a new secularism might constitute a space/between identities: a non-discursive knowledge/power that generates something other than the current age’s proliferation of subjectivities. Science, skepticism, solidarity and the social, democracy and economic security.
Only this deep into postmodernity could one lapse into utopianism while yearning for a resurrection of the secular. But when even Habermas has abandoned the latter as a precondition for fair speech, what’s left but to dream about but a rationale for justice and material distribution which, itself free of godheads, is big enough to encompass how we do or don’t worship and who we think we are?
[Much, much, much more on this in the context of the contraception debate, can be found here.]